Facing the departures of at least six experienced reporters within two weeks, executives at the new NOLA Media Group — parent company of The Times-Picayune — changed course and offered jobs to several staffers who had previously been told they would not be invited to join the new company. Reporters who were un-laid off in recent days include Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, Paul Purpura and Mark Waller. A fourth veteran reporter, who had been offered a job on the digital side of the operation, will likely continue in a traditional reporting role.
Explaining the change of plans, a newsroom source told Gambit, "We're losing a lot of institutional memory." Two weeks ago, another source had described the mood in the executive suite as "shitting bricks" due to the number of people who had found other jobs, and how soon they were leaving. Among the other changes:
• Longtime City Hall reporters Frank Donze and Michelle Krupa will leave the paper July 20. Their replacements on the city government beat are Rich Rainey of the Jefferson Parish bureau and Claire Galofaro of the paper's Northshore bureau. Rainey and Galofaro were seen in council chambers July 12, being introduced to councilmembers and their staffers. Meanwhile, Donze will become the new communications director for Audubon Nature Institute Aug. 1.
• Crime/cops reporter Brendan McCarthy, who will join WWL-TV this fall as an investigative reporter, will leave the paper July 27. His replacement is Ramon Antonio Vargas, a Northshore reporter who began his career as a part-timer in the downtown newsroom. Vargas had been offered a job reporting on sports in the new company, but the job description changed in recent days due to the downtown departures.
• Also leaving July 27: Cindy Chang, the primary author of the paper's recent series on Louisiana prisons. Chang has accepted a job covering immigration and ethnic affairs at the Los Angeles Times.
• Besides Donze, Krupa, McCarthy and Chang, Bill Barrow and David Hammer are also leaving. Hammer's last day was July 13; he begins at WWL-TV in August. Barrow, who is Krupa's husband, has accepted a job at the Associated Press in Atlanta, while Krupa is said to be in talks with CNN.
• Also leaving the paper: Paul Rioux, who covers Jefferson Parish and the West Bank. Rioux has accepted a job with the Bureau of Governmental Research.
Besides WWL-TV, other local stations have been fishing around the T-P newsroom as well. WDSU-TV has had discreet talks with several Times-Picayune employees, though WVUE-TV also has been making inquiries. — KEVIN ALLMAN